My Father's Impact
Posted by Austin on May 8, 2014
I loved watching my dad play. I was the little kid at four years old in the St. Louis Rams locker room cleaning helmets. I always wanted to go with him to work. I would always ask him, ‘Hey, can I skip school and go with you to work?' I just always wanted to be around the game and I loved being around the guys. The Rams players nicknamed me ‘A-Train.' I see those guys like London Fletcher, Torry Holt, and Marshall Faulk and they still call me ‘A-Train.'
It was one of those things that even at that young I knew I wanted to play at a high level. Seeing my dad go through it and seeing what my dad had to do in order to play and perform at a high level taught me more than he'll ever know. I saw what it took to play 17 years in the NFL.
I used to watch him train and I used to throw balls to him when I was young just because he used to train by himself in the offseason. So I would work out with him.
My dad had a great career with the Rams. That was probably the most memorable time of his career just because he went to two Super Bowls (won one and lost one), he made the catch that brought them to the Super Bowl in '99, the fans loved him in St. Louis, and just living in St. Louis was cool because we had our whole family there at that point.
And then he went to the Carolina Panthers where he made the catch in the season opener to win it with 16 seconds left. They ended up going to the Super Bowl that year. The next two seasons, he had good seasons and then Peyton Manning called my dad up and talked him into playing one more year for the Indianapolis Colts. He went there and won a Super Bowl with Peyton.
The Colts offered him a contract two years after that and he just said, ‘I'm done. I want to go build a park.' So he went and built Proehlific Park in Greensboro. I was 12 or 13 years old at that time and he wanted to be able to work with me, my brother, and my sister, who was in her prime with soccer.
After about four years at being at Proehlific Park, the Carolina Panthers called my dad up and asked him about being the assistant receivers coach. He took the job just because he loved it and missed it.
When he became a coach, I was pretty old at that time – I was a freshman in high school. I had a good freshman year at Western Guilford. He was leaving for Charlotte and I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to stay in Greensboro or go to Charlotte. I choose Charlotte just because I wanted to be around him and I wanted to be around the guys in Charlotte. Plus, I figured I could work again for the Panthers.
I knew my high school years were going to be four of the biggest years of my life because those four years were going to bring me to the next level – college. And that's the first step to my ultimate goal of playing in the NFL.
Having him as a father and a coach is one of those things where when I'm on the field, he's my coach – he's not my father. When I'm off the field, he's my father. In both forms, he has taught me more things than I could ever imagine. I think he's the best coach in America – he's No. 1 and Coach Brewer is No. 2.
My dad knows the ins and outs of the game just because he wasn't always the fastest guy and he wasn't the biggest – just like me. He had to know on every single down what the coverage was and what route he had to respond with. If it was cover-three, cover-two, or man, he had to know what he had to do to get open and catch the ball, because he wasn't the freak that Randy Moss was at that time. He had to do extra work to be successful and that taught me a lot.
Having him as my coach at every single one of my games was not always the best just because I felt like I heard coaching five hours after the games. But I know that he knows what he's talking about.
Just seeing him work on Sundays with the guys and watching film with them, I get to see how he coaches. I realized that he coaches me the same way that he coaches his players – even players like Steve Smith, who is going to be a Hall of Famer. Coaching me the same way that he coaches Steve Smith showed me that he thinks I'm a decent player and he believed in me, which meant a lot to me.
As my high school career went on, my dad just told me, "Listen, you're not the biggest guy and you're not the fastest guy, so you have to out-smart kids and you have to get in and out of your cuts." I think those two things are really what set me a part. Even though I ran a 4.48 40 at the Freak Show, that wasn't good enough. I had to get in and out of my cuts and do things better than the other guys to get noticed.
I get asked a lot about whether I've felt extra pressure because I'm Ricky Proehl's son. But I don't, because I want to be in this situation. If I could be half as good as my dad was I feel like I'll be a pretty good football player. If you ask him, he'll say I'm smarter than him, I run better routes than him, and I'm faster than him. But I'm not where he was – the NFL – and that's the ultimate goal. I represent the Proehl family with the name on the back of my jersey and I want to represent it to the best of my ability at Carolina.